With three off days in the last week, it’s been a bit of a slow week for the Twins. Alex Meyer learned to throw a nasty change up and Eduardo Escobar seems to have taken over the SS duties from Pedro Florimon. No one in the starting rotation is very good at throwing baseballs lately.
Almost a week ago, with the Twins in the middle of being swept by the Oakland Athletics, I wrote (over at BaseballTwins.com) that the Twins had no chance of being above .500 for the entire season, and then went so far as to loudly proclaim the same stance on the most recent Talk to Contact podcast. After a weekend of hot baseball, from the offense and pitching staff, the Twins are now back to .500, at 6-6, and with an off day today to prep for a three game series at home with the Blue Jays, I find myself on the verge of eating crow.
How did this happen?
The Twins pitching turned in their three best performances of the year, the Twins’ bats woke up in a big way, and some timely defensive miscues allowed the Twins to steal a victory on Sunday.
On Friday night, Kyle Gibson put in another strong start, going 6.1 innings and giving up just one run. Like his first start of the year, Gibson once again walked four batters, and recorded just three strike outs, so it wasn’t a perfect start, but he got the outs he needed and avoided any real damage (and the run he gave up in the first inning was directly related to Pedro Florimon booting a tailor-made double-play ball).
Not to be outdone, on Saturday afternoon, Ricky Nolasco pitched eight strong innings of one run ball, controlling the ball well, recording four strike outs and surrendering only a single walk.
While Nolasco and Gibson put up strong performances, the Twins hitters did their jobs too, scoring 17 runs in those first two games, with a balanced lineup that saw key hits from Dozier, Suzuki, Pinto, Mauer, Kubel, Colabello and Plouffe. Everyone was hitting except Florimon and Mastroianni, who managed to be 0-8 (but did chip in two walks) while the rest of the team recorded a .346 on base percentage.
On Sunday, Kevin Correia worked seven scoreless innings, but let the first three batters of the inning reach base, and Brian Duensing came in with two one and one in already. He couldn’t stop the bleeding and the Twins were down 3-2 going into the home half of the eighth. IN the bottom of the inning the Twins loaded the bases and Chris Herrmann grounded to the pitcher Wade Davis who tried to start a home-to-first double play, but instead threw the ball away allowing two runs to score.
While the Twins might creep over .500 before this home stand ends, I still think that the Twins next four series after that, against the Royals, Rays, Tigers and Dodgers will put the Twins firmly below .500 without much chance of a return.
For now though, the Twins are interesting, and I look forward to eating crow.
The highlight of this week’s episode is an interview with Josh Duggan (@oldmanduggan) of Royals Review to talk about what’s been happening with our division rival’s over in Kansas City. We review their off-season and make predictions about the future of the division in 2014 and beyond. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.
At one point during the podcast Paul professes the strangest fantasy a man has ever had involving another man’s forearms, Jay Corn predicts the Twins to somehow win 83 games and Eric talks smack about his mother to his twin brother. Twins topics were also covered. Spring has sprung and the Twins are all down in Ft Myers for spring training and everyone is in the best shape of their lives. We discuss some notable signings from around the league take a look at Twins minor leaguer and 2013 draft pick Ryan Walker and course discuss what we’re drinking and recommend traveling to Alaska.
The boys have their potty mouths on this week, so if you’re listening near small children you may want to turn the volume down.
We’re essentially geniuses, that’s the only conclusion I could come to after recording and listening to this week’s episode. Pure baseball genius. We talk about some issues surrounding the infield this off-season (The return of Justin Morneau? What Miguel Sano means to Trevor Plouffe and if anyone can or should challenge Pedro Florimon at SS), talk a little bit about the farm system and some possible trades that might develop. We also talk about beer. Eric was fired for drinking water, then immediately hired back, because he’s my brother. We also made a wager of 100 beers while debating if Doug Bernier will ever post an OBP over .330 again in his career.
Thanks for listening!
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes(ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers).
So the boys are back in Minnesota and the weather is perfectly timed for some GLORIOUS baseball. The heat streak has resided for the last week with ridiculous heat indices but now that has changed – at least the humidity has gone to tolerable levels. It’s still in the 80′s but suddenly that doesn’t matter – it is just a lovely summer evening for baseball.
The way the rumor mill is going, everyone quick enjoy the M&M boys – including their bobblehead to 10k fans tonight – before Morneau is traded somewhere else for a paltry nothing on a soft market..
So other than another losing season and the possible loss of a popular player for no particularly good reason, let’s just try to enjoy a great weekend of great baseball weather and see if we can’t take down a beatable division rival!
|Bourn, CF||Dozier, 2B|
|Cabrera, A, SS||Plouffe, 3B|
|Kipnis, 2B||Mauer, C|
|Swisher, 1B||Morneau, 1B|
|Brantley, LF||Doumit, RF|
|Santana, C, DH||Colabello, DH|
|Chisenhall, 3B||Hicks, CF|
|Gomes, Y, C||Thomas, C, LF|
|Stubbs, RF||Florimon, SS|
|Kazmir, P||Pelfrey, P|
Now THAT is how you come back from the the All-Star break! (and come back in the game for that matter..) It really was a beautiful night for baseball. And wow the Indians had some HORRIBLE defense out there – Defense was the theme for tonight.
There were also some great stories from tonight: Mauer got the game-winning base hit in the 8th which is normally enough to earn you a BOD, Dozier with some gorgeous fielding and baserunning, Perkins finally getting to use all that ASG energy to get his Save..
But BOD tonight goes to Pedro Florimon! He’s the one who got us to the tie in the first place, had two different miraculous solo fielding plays, a stunning double play with Dozier but in general understanding and playing GREAT baseball on both sides tonight. LOVED it. Defense lost this game, and Defense won it. Great job boys.
With one bad first inning on Tuesday night, the Twins fell from a first place tie atop the AL Central Division in to sole possession of next-to-last place.
Such is life in the second week of a six-month-long Major League Baseball season.
The Twins sit at .500 with a 4-4 record after winning their first two series of the season from Detroit and Baltimore, both of which were postseason participants a year ago. The latter series was also on the road. That ain’t bad.
The losses the past two games in Kansas City have been a bit hard to stomach, of course. Blowing a one-run lead and wasting a pretty fair performance by pitcher Kevin Correia (at least through his first seven innings) was galling on Monday and the five-run bottom of the first that the Twins coughed up to the Royals Tuesday night was way too reminiscent of the kind of starts the Twins endured last year from their rotation.
But, on balance, things could be a lot worse, right?
After all, the Twins have put together this .500 start while most of their best hitters have gotten off to what you’d have to be generous to call mediocre starts.
The Twins have three hitters with batting averages above .300 at this point and you’d have to add all of those three players’ plate appearances together to match the number of times the team’s regular position players have come to the plate. When Eduardo Escobar, Pedro Florimon and Wilkin Ramirez are leading your team’s offense, you know you aren’t hitting (in this case, literally) on all cylinders yet.
Josh Willingham is off to a productive start, however. He’s hitting .280 with a couple of doubles and a couple of dingers. We’ll take that from the Hammer all year long. Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe haven’t been great, but haven’t been awful either. Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer have not gotten off to great starts, so you have to figure the offense will improve as those two begin to warm up.
So things could be worse, offensively. Don’t believe me? Just imagine if Manager Ron Gardenhire had decided to plug Brian Dozier and his .174 On-base percentage in to the #2 spot of the order.
Then there’s the pitching. We’ve known all along that this team is going to live or die based on what kind of pitching they get.
Most of the good news is in the bullpen. Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Ryan Pressly and Josh Roenicke, as a group, have not yet surrendered a run, earned or otherwise. They have 14 strikeouts (and seven walks) in 15 innings of combined work. Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing have also contributed positively out of the pen.
The results from the rotation members have been mixed. But, as with most things in life, it’s all relative. Compared to what we grew accustomed to seeing a year ago, maybe it hasn’t been all that bad.
Kevin Correia isn’t striking anyone out, but nobody really thought he would. What he has done is induce 23 ground outs and taken his team through the first seven innings of each of his starts. I think we’d take that all year long if we could get it.
There have been some encouraging innings out of some of the other rotation members, as well, but we need to see improvement there. That improvement could potentially start when Scott Diamond comes off the Disabled List in a couple of days.
Still, considering that the Twins pitchers are sixth in the American League in team ERA and their hitters are 12th in both batting average and OPS, you’d almost have to say it’s the team’s pitching that has them even as high as .500 at this point. Who would have expected that?
We are about at what could be considered the half-way point of the Twins’ Spring Training, believe it or not. We’re hitting that point a little early this spring because of the way the World Baseball Classic has caused an elongation of the process. But regardless of how we got here, with all of the question marks the Twins had when pitchers and catchers reported to Ft. Myers, it’s as good a time as any to check in to see if any of those questions are any closer to being answered.
Will the Twins rotation be better?
Of course, the smart-ass answer to that is that it could hardly be worse than it was last season, so it almost has to be better. But based on early appearances, the “real” answer is also, “yes, it will be better.” Of course, it’s way too early to predict how much better.
With Scott Diamond as yet untested in games, all we’ve really been able to see are the newly acquired pitchers (Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia) and the young pitchers trying to translate minor league success in to Major League careers (Liam Hendriks and Kyle Gibson). To be fair, holdovers from last season such as Cole DeVries and Sam Deduno also have to be considered in the mix, but unless those guys show something that makes everyone believe they’ve significantly improved, the fact remains that if they’re part of the Twins rotation for a significant part of the season, it probably means the answer to this question is that the rotation has not improved enough to make a real difference in the Twins short-term fortunes.
The good news is that, on balance, the leading candidates for rotation spots have not looked too bad in their first few outings. Worley looks like what we expected him to be, a legitimate mid-rotation arm. Pelfrey isn’t yet hitting his normal pre-Tommy John surgery velocity, but he hasn’t had any sort of medical setback that we feared he might have given his accelerated rehab schedule. Corriea missed a little time to be with his wife for the birth of their new son and showed some rust in his first game back on Thursday, but he hasn’t been getting rocked the way you might have expected if you believed all the harpoons directed toward him by writers and fans since signing with the Twins. Finally, both Hendriks and Gibson have had ups and downs but have generally demonstrated why they’re considered legitimate rotation options to start the season with the Twins.
Scott Diamond is scheduled to get his first Spring Training start on March 18 so we may not know until the final week of camp whether he’ll be ready for the Opening Day roster. That said, if the Twins had to open the season with a rotation of Worley, Pelfrey, Correia, Hendriks and Gibson, I could live with that and feel somewhat confident that said rotation would lead to better results than we saw in 2012, despite the obvious shortcoming of being without a lefty until Diamond returns.
Who’s going to be the centerfielder?
The Twins entered Spring Training telling us that three players would compete for the CF job… their 4th outfielder from 2012, Darin Mastroianni, and two young outfield prospects trying to make the Opening Day roster for the first time, Aaron Hicks and Joe Benson.
The competition going in seemed set up in a way that made job Hicks’ to lose. He’s definitely the player with the highest ceiling and it was just a matter of whether he would prove to the decision-makers that he’s ready for prime time, despite never playing an inning of AAA baseball. If he failed to impress, Mastroanni was likely to get the job, by default. Benson’s only real shot to win the job would be if Hicks and Mastroianni both failed miserably and/or don’t survive Spring Training healthy.
Thus far, it’s been all about Aaron Hicks. He already has three home runs after leading off both Wednesday’s game against Puerto Rico’s WBC team and Thursday’s game against the Phillies with home runs. The former wasn’t “official,” of course, since it came in an exhibition game, but the latter came against Cliff Lee.
UPDATE: Almost before I could get this article posted, Hicks hit ANOTHER home run in that Phillies game Thursday afternoon. At this rate, he’s going to screw up his chances to open the season as the Twins’ leadoff hitter by showing too much power. That said, two words of caution for Twins fans who might be tempted to read too much in to Spring Training power displays: “Luke Hughes”.
UPDATED UPDATE: Hicks has hit a THIRD home run in that Phillies game. Just… wow.
There’s still a lot of games to play before Opening Day and it wouldn’t be unheard of for a rookie to start hot and then begin tightening up at the end of the spring as the pressure of knowing he’s really playing for a spot in a Major League starting line up hits him. Still, you definitely have to say that Hicks has grabbed hold of this opportunity with both hands.
Who’s going to get the middle infield jobs?
It was generally assumed that three of the four infielders competing for middle infield spots would move north with the Twins, while one headed for Rochester. However, while Brian Dozier and Pedro Florimon appear to be the early leaders in the race for starting positions at 2B and SS, respectively, it is now looking like both Jamey Carroll and Eduardo Escobar could stick, as well. Carroll brings a veteran presence along with the versatility to play multiple positions. Escobar, though, has been impressing coaches with his glove and, it turns out, could serve as an “emergency” catcher. His bat, frankly, may not be much more of a threat than Drew Butera’s, but he would provide much greater utility around the field than Butera would. This decision could come down to the wire in late March, so stay tuned.
In the end, none of the questions have truly been answered yet, but we can definitely see the roster starting to take shape. The first round of roster cuts could be announced almost any time, now that the minor league camp has opened up and pitchers are starting to get stretched out to four innings or so. Still, with several players still participating in WBC games, there will continue to be plenty of opportunities for young players to impress someone.
For now, the two most important things Twins fans need to hope for are (1) that the potential rotation members continue to improve as Spring Training rolls on, and (2) that Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau return from the WBC healthy.
The 25-man roster is not yet set in stone, but if we take a look at the 40-man roster we can get some kind of idea about where the Twins players closest to the Major Leagues come from.
Drafted out of High School (12, 5 pitchers, 7 position players)
Alex Burnett, 12th round 2005 (375 overall); B.J. Hermsen, 6th round 2008 (186); Tyler Robertson, 3rd round 2006 (96); Anthony Swarzak, 2nd round 2004 (61); Michael Tonkin, 30th round 2008 (906); Joe Mauer, 1st round 2001 (1); Brian Dozier, 8th round 2009 (252); Justin Morneau, 3rd round 1999 (89); Chris Parmelee, 1st round 2006 (20); Trevor Plouffe, 1st round 2004 (20); Joe Benson, 2nd round 2006 (64); Aaron Hicks, 1st round 2008 (14)
Unsurprisingly the Twins largest group of players on the 40-man roster come as high school draftees. There is a fairly good mix of position players and pitchers, though of the pitchers on the list none of them were drafted in the first round, compared to 4 first round position players*. This makes sense as the arms on this list are all bullpen guys, not a single player there with really dominant stuff.
*Byron Buxton, the Twins most recent 1st round draft pick was just 5 years old when the Twins drafted Justin Morneau in 1999. Morny has been with the team a long time, it will be interesting to see if the Twins look to move him later this year.
Free Agent (10, 7 pitchers, 3 position players)
Jared Burton, 2011; Kevin Correia, 2012; Cole De Vries, 2006 (undrafted out of University of Minnesota); Casey Fien, 2012; Mike Pelfrey, 2012; Caleb Thielbar, 2011; Tim Wood, 2012; Ryan Doumit, 2011; Jamey Carroll, 2011; Josh Willingham, 2011
Likely because the Twins spent so many high draft picks on position players, the Twins have struggled to develop their own pitching and have turned to the free agent market to balance their roster. As with the high school draftees, none of the arms on this list are particularly dominant, though Burton was a pleasant surprise in 2012.
Trade (6, 4 pitchers, 2 position players)
Scott Diamond, 2011 (Billy Bullock); Pedro Hernandez, 2012 (Francisco Liriano); Eduardo Escobar, 2012 (Liriano); Trevor May, 2012 (Ben Revere); Vance Worley, 2012 (Revere); Drew Butera, 2007 (Luis Castillo)
I listed Scott Diamond as a player acquired via trade, but he originally joined the Twins through the 2010 Rule 5 draft, but when he failed to make the roster out of Spring Training the Twins completed a trade with the Atlanta Braves in order to keep him with the organization. Of the other names here, only Butera sticks out, only because with his ties to the organization (his father Sal Butera was with the Twins for parts of 6 Minor League and 4 Major League seasons) I often forget that he was not originally drafted by the Twins.
Drafted out of College (4, 3 pitchers, 1 position player)
Again, because the Twins were not drafting and developing high school pitching they have used several early round picks on college pitchers in an effort to balance the system. Of the two 1st rounders here, only Gibson was the Twins 1st overall pick of the draft, Perkins was selected after Trevor Plouffe, with a compensation pick from the Mariners when they signed Eddie Guardado. In fact, in the 2004 draft the Twins had 3 first round picks and 2 more supplemental round picks, giving them 5 of the first 39 draft picks and 7 of the first 100. Of those seven picks, Plouffe, Perkins and Anthony Swarzak are all still with the Twins, 9 years later.
International Free Agent (4, 1 pitcher, 3 position players)
Pretty young group of players here, but lots of upside with Santana and Arcia cracking MLB’s list of Top 20 Twins prospects.
Waiver (3, 1 pitcher, 2 position players)
As you’d expect, no superstars in this trio, but two of these guys could be in the starting lineup on Opening Day.
Rule 5 Draft (1, 1 pitcher, 0 position players)
Ryan Pressly, 2012 (Red Sox)
It remains to be seen if Pressly will make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training, though the cards are certainly stacked against him. If the Twins are going to keep him long term, they’ll need to work out a trade with the Boston Red Sox to keep him in the organization if he is not on the big league roster.
So there you have it, 40 players and their origins within the Twins organization. With high school draft picks making up the lion’s share of the roster, the Twins amateur scouts seem to know what they’re doing. That bodes well for the future and Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios, Travis Harrison and Hudson Boyd, the Twins’ highest drafted high school players in the past two drafts.
-ERolfPleissAll player information obtained from Baseball-Reference. If I’ve listed any player origins incorrectly, please let me know.
Baseball’s Winter Meetings get in to gear down at the Gaylord Opryland hotel in Nashville on Monday and that’s got me a bit nervous. The Twins, at least at the Major League level, are in a sorry state, having come off a 96-loss season which followed a 99-loss season. It just doesn’t get much worse than this, folks.
A year ago, just ahead of the Winter Meetings in Dallas, I wrote a post here headlined “M&M: Time to Step Up or Shut Up.” The point was that, following a season in which the Twins stars had spent more time not playing baseball than playing baseball, perhaps it wasn’t totally unrealistic for the front office to play a little “wait and see” before spending a bunch of money trying to rebuild the roster to a level capable of contending. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, among others, needed to play better in 2012 or it really wouldn’t matter whether the Twins spent money to buy them some help.
To their credit, I believe Mauer and Morneau did exactly what I asked. They both had much-improved seasons, managing to stay on the field and hit baseballs with some regularity. Whatever the reasons were for the Twins dropping 96 games in 2012, those reasons had little, if anything, to do with Mauer and Morneau. The failure can arguably be laid almost entirely at the feet of the pitching staff. And that’s not entirely surprising. We at Knuckleballs posted multiple articles last offseason expressing our disappointment about the Twins failure to add significant pitching help and we certainly weren’t the only people making that point.
So here we are, a year later, on the eve of yet another week of Winter Meetings, and guess what… the Twins need to significantly improve their pitching staff. Terry Ryan made what certainly appears to have been a reasonable trade this week when he sent popular and productive outfielder/leadoff hitter Denard Span to the Nationals for potential future top-of-the-rotation pitcher Alex Meyer. But that deal won’t do anything to make the product at Target Field any more watchable in 2013.
The reports we are reading leading up to these meetings indicate the Twins are expected to be very active and that Terry Ryan is looking to significantly improve the 2013 rotation largely through the free agent market. That’s encouraging to hear, but folks, we’ve heard that before.
Let’s hop in to our time machine and go back just one year ago, shall we? Here’s a summary of what we were reading about the Twins activities during the Winter Meetings last December:
- On Day One last year, there was conjecture that the Twins remained interested in Edwin Jackson, but that Jackson was going to wait until CJ Wilson and/or Mark Buehrle set the market. The Twins were said to be interested in Jackson only if they did not spend the money to re-sign Michael Cuddyer. Of course, they signed Josh Willingham for considerably less money than Cuddyer was demanding, but we certainly did not see Jackson in a Twins uniform.
- Speaking of Mark Buehrle, reports also came out of Dallas on Day One that the Twins were one of four teams (along with the Nationals, Marlins and Rangers) that were “still in on” Buehrle. He eventually signed with the Marlins and is now a Blue Jay.
- So what DID the Twins do on Day One? They re-signed Matt Capps and claimed SS Pedro Florimon off waivers from the Orioles.
- On Day Two, we read that Buehrle had narrowed his list to five teams and that the Twins had an offer in. Word also came out that the Twins would be meeting with Jeff Francis’ agent during the Winter Meetings.
- On the other hand, the Strib’s LaVelle E. Neal III was reporting that the Twins had had no conversations with the agents of Francis and Jackson.
- They didn’t add a pitcher on Day Two, but the Twins did part with one. They traded Kevin Slowey to the Rockies for a “player to be named later.”
- And on Day Three, apparently worn out by all the activity the first two days, the Twins front office rested.
Of course, later in the month, Terry Ryan inked Jason Marquis to a one year contract, so it’s not like he didn’t add any starting pitching, right?
So what’s my point?
My point is that, while Terry Ryan and Dave St. Peter are saying all the right things right now about improving the Twins in 2013 by adding legitimate starting pitchers, I’ll believe it when I see it. I’ve heard it before. Just a year ago, the media was being fed reports about how the Twins were in on Mark Buehrle and interested in talking to Edwin Jackson’s agent. But when it came to actually spending money, they signed Jason Marquis.
And make no mistake, it would have been pretty easy to make a case to a top pitcher that their 2011 failures were fluke-ish… that injuries to Mauer, Morneau, Span, and others were responsible for the lousy record… and that with some pitching help and a return to health by their stars, the Twins could contend again in 2012. It won’t be nearly as easy to convince a top free agent that they’d be signing on to a contender in Minnesota this year. Last year, all Ryan had to so was spend money. This year he has to do a helluva sales job AND spend money.
It’s perfectly fine for fans to be hopeful that Ryan will do exactly that. As fans, hope is what we live on in December and January.
It’s also perfectly understandable for us to be skeptical that the Twins are really serious about being willing to spend the money that would be necessary to bring legitimate starting pitching help on board.
As I’ve written this past week, Terry Ryan has been saying all the right things. I’m sure the Twins would like fans to take them at their word when they talk about being willing to spend money to make real and immediate improvements.
But if the Twins really want us to take their words seriously, they need to do more than talk about signing good pitchers. They need to do it.
You’re on deck Mr. Ryan. It’s time for you to step up.
On Monday I did a quick run down of the pitchers currently on the Twins 40-man roster. Today I will take a look at the position players, including five catchers, nine infielders, and seven outfielders. Several of these players will not be on the roster when the Twins head north to start the season.
Catchers (Age, Position, Highest 2012 Level)
Drew Butera - 29, 3rd Catcher, MLB – If Butera is still on the 40-man roster when the Twins break camp, the Twins are doing it wrong. With Mauer and Doumit handling most of the catching duties, the Twins’ third catcher should be more versatile than Butera (and have some value as a bench bat), pitching ability notwithstanding.
Ryan Doumit - 31, C/RF/DH, MLB – Ryan Doumit might never pass for an average defensive catcher, but his ability to slot in at RF and DH allow the Twins to move Mauer and Morneau around and if he hits like he did in 2012 (.275/.320/.461, 18 HR and 75 RBI) the Twins will continue to reap the benefits of his very reasonable contract extension.
Chris Herrmann - 25, C/LF, MLB – Herrmann lucked into a September call-up when Mauer and Doumit were both a little nicked up and he struggled offensively while he was up. Herrmann was off to a pretty decent Arizona Fall League performance but an injury ultimately derailed his season in Peoria. Herrmann is pretty rough as a catcher, but he has a great arm, and like Doumit, has the ability with the bat to play well as a corner outfielder.
Joe Mauer - 29, C/DH/1B, MLB – Joe Mauer’s 2012 went a long way to erase 2011 from fan’s memories. He led the league in OBP and if you don’t consider his 2009 MVP season, Mauer was back to being Joe Mauer. He will probably never hit 29 home runs again, especially in Target Field, but the Twins’ flexibility with Mauer has allowed them to keep his bat in the lineup almost every day.
Josmil Pinto - 23, C/DH, AA – Pinto has virtually no shot to make the 25-man roster having barely played any ball above High-A. The Twins like his bat, but if he’s going to stick as a catcher he’s going to have to catch a lot of breaks. As Aaron Gleeman said in a recent podcast (I’m paraphrasing heavily), if he’s already splitting time at DH in the lower levels, he could easily be stuck at 1B or DH by the time he’s ready to put on a MLB uniform.
Jamey Carroll - 38, Utility Infielder, MLB – At 38 years-old Carroll is long past his prime as a baseball player, that the Twins might have to use him as a starting infielder in 2013 gives you a pretty good idea about how bad they’ve been at producing middle infield talent with their farm system in the recent past. Carroll lived up (mostly) to his solid defensive and on-base percentage track record in 2012, but if this team is really building toward the future, Carroll needs to be relegated to utility infield duties by mid-season to give the youngsters more opportunity.
Brian Dozier - 25, SS, MLB – 2012 started off so well for Dozier. Coming off a red-hot 2011 campaign, Dozier had a great spring and after crushing the ball to start the year in Triple-A the Twins called him up to be their everyday shortstop. From there things went poorly. Dozier hung on for 84 games hitting just (.234/.271/.332) while playing sub-par defense before the Twins sent him back down to Triple-A. Dozier wouldn’t be the first MLB regular who failed in his first Big League opportunity, but some of the luster has worn off and he’ll need another strong spring – offensively and defensively – to play his way back into the good graces of upper management. He should be on the 25-man roster to start the season, if for no other reason than to make sure 2012 was not a fluke.
Eduardo Escobar - 23, Utility Infielder, MLB – Escobar was obtained from the White Sox in the deal that sent Fransico Liriano to Chicago. Escobar played sparingly with the Sox over the past two seasons playing all over the diamond (3B, 2B, SS, and LF), but he isn’t a true shortstop. Between Dozier, Carroll and Florimon, Escobar is probably the odd man out, starting the year in Rochester.
Thomas Field - 25, MI, RF, MLB – Claimed off of waivers from the Colorado Rockies, Field has primarily played shortstop in the minor leagues, but has spent time at second base as well. He doesn’t have a big bat, even in the Minor Leagues (.264/.359/.414 across five seasons), but he seems to be proficient with the glove. I don’t expect him to make the 25-man roster, and he’s a guy I could easily see the Twins removing from the 40-man roster to make room for a free agent signing. EDIT: Per MLB Trade Rumors, Thomas Field has been claimed off waivers by the Los Angeles Angles of Anaheim.
Pedro Florimon - 25, SS, MLB – Florimon is entering his second full season in the Twins organization after being claimed from the Baltimore Orioles at the conclusion of the 2011 season. Florimon played in 43 games with the Twins and hit poorly but showed flashes of spectacular defense, as is Florimon’s MO. After suffering through a combination of Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Trevor Plouffe, and Brian Dozier at SS the past couple of seasons the Twins like Florimon’s defensive upside, but he’ll have to hit better than .219 to beat out Brian Dozier and earn the starting spot at short.
Justin Morneau - 31, 1B/DH, MLB – Entering the final year of his 6 year/$80 million dollar contract, Morneau will earn $14 million dollars in 2013. Morneau finally seemed to put his concussion behind him in the second half of 2012 and when he’s healthy he is still a valuable offensive weapon. He plays above average defense at first base, and if he has another strong half of a year and the Twins are out of contention by the All-Star break, the Twins could easily flip him for a prospect this summer.
Chris Parmelee - 24, 1B/RF, MLB – Parmelee does not have much of anything left to prove in Triple-A after hitting a blistering .338/.457/.645 batting line in 2012, but he’s yet to have sustained success with the Minnesota Twins. He had a red hot September in 2011, but with almost 3x as many plate appearances in 2012 he hit like a Pedro Florimon, with a little more power. The Twins will need to find regular at-bats for Parmelee in 2013, but with a crowded outfield, Mauer and Morneau splitting time at first, and a solid rotation at DH, there just is no room for Parmelee on the roster as it is currently constructed. I do not expect the Twins to trade Parmelee, especially with Morneau unlikely to return in 2014, and Parmelee might have to log a few more months in Rochester before a spot opens up for him on this Twins team.
Trevor Plouffe - 26, 3B, MLB – Was Plouffe’s six-week power surge for real? Did his thumb injury keep him from succeeding at the tail end of last season? Or was the real Trevor Plouffe something in between, a guy with questionable defensive ability and occasional power to left field? Terry Ryan said on Monday night in an interview on 1500ESPN that the Twins want to bring in some third base competition for Plouffe this winter, but the Twins have bigger holes at shortstop and in the pitching rotation, so it seems highly unlikely that that Twins will bring in anyone that could really threaten Plouffe’s hold on the starting third base job.
Daniel Santana - 22, SS/2B, High-A – Santana is widely considered as the best shortstop prospect in the Twins system, but without any playing time above High-A, he’s not making the 25-man roster out of Spring Training. Santana could move quickly through the system in 2013, probably starting the year in AA, and if he continues to play well and hit he could easily be in Rochester before the season’s end. Santana just turned 22 years old, so even if he is not Big League ready until 2015, he’d still be just 25 years old. A lot of upside here, but like many of the Twins’ best prospects, he’s a long way from donning the Twins uniform.
Oswaldo Arcia - 21, RF, AA – Arcia took another big step forward in 2012 posting one of the best batting lines of his career in a full season at Double-A. Along with Double-A teammate Aaron Hicks, Arcia should be roaming the outfield in Rochester to start 2013, but if the Twins deal Span, Revere or Willingham he could potentially be looking at a MLB tryout in Spring Training. As a corner outfielder he’ll need to continue to hit at Triple-A to retain his prospect value, but if he succeeds he could be a Twins regular as early as 2014.
Joe Benson - 24, CF/RF, AAA – 2012 was a lost year for Benson. After a solid 2011 season he was rewarded with a September appearance with the Twins and while he didn’t light the world on fire, he flashed his defensive value and speed, along with a beautiful head of hair. In 2012 Benson started the year at Triple-A, struggled and was demoted to Double-A, struggled more, was injured, rehabbed in the Rookie League and at High-A, and then struggled again at Double-A before ending the year back on the disabled list with a knee injury. I think the Twins will put Benson back at Double-A to start 2013, but he could quickly join Arcia and Hicks in what would be a really fun outfield for the Rochester Red Wings.
Aaron Hicks - 23, CF, AA – Formerly the Twins #1 prospect, Hicks was rated as high as the 19th best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America before the 2010 season, but by 2012 he had fallen all the way off the Top 100 list. Then, as if motivated by his removal from the list, Hicks had a great 2012 and vaulted his way back up Twins prospect lists and sits firmly behind Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton as one of the Twins’ best Minor League ballplayers. Hicks hit .286/.384/.460 in 129 games in Double-A last year, and he also hit well from both sides of the plate, something he’d struggled to do for the past couple years, so much so that there was talk that Hicks give up his switch hitting ways. Hicks combines a high-upside bat with spectacular defense and a great arm. He likely has all the defensive ability of Ben Revere, but with a bat that could profile well even as a corner outfielder. If the Twins move Willingham, Span or Revere this winter, Hicks is likely to be the best fit to fill in, but I would be a little more comfortable if he had some time in Triple-A to build on his 2012 success before handing him a starting job in Minnesota.
Darin Mastroianni - 27, CF/RF/LF, MLB – I feel like a broken record here, but if the Twins move one of their starting outfielders this winter, Mastroianni is probably the immediate beneficiary in terms of playing time. While he’s perfectly suited in his role as a fourth outfielder, he would likely be exposed offensively if given an increased workload. His defense is good enough for him to play everyday, but his bat would suffer. Mastroianni’s speed and versatility give him an advantage over Chris Parmelee for a 25-man roster spot, but if the Twins are dead set on finding room for Parmelee, Mastroianni could be squeezed.
Ben Revere - 24, RF, MLB – A year ago Twins fans were clamoring for Revere to earn a full time spot in the Twins outfield, and despite his weak arm, the Twins installed him as their everyday right fielder. Revere has the range and defensive ability to play center field, but Ron Gardenhire is a manager that frequently defers to his veterans, and even after another year of watching Revere make spectacular plays in the outfield, Gardenhire is unlikely to swap roles with Span and Revere. The biggest takeaway from 2012 for Revere was his offensive improvement. He’s always going to be a guy who’s batting average will sit around .300 with plenty of infield hits, and he won’t take a lot of walks, but if he continues to develop extra base power, he’ll be a Denard Span lite (which the Twins would be happy to have in center field if – again- they move Span this winter).
Denard Span - 28, CF, MLB – Span has been the Twin most frequently listed on MLB Trade Rumors, and if the Twins are really looking to bring back a quality starting pitcher, his team friendly contract makes him the most likely candidate to go. After battling concussion issues in 2011, Denard Span played 128 games in a mostly healthy 2012 campaign and his offensive season was almost identical to his career averages. The Twins hold a team option on Denard Span for 2015, so if the Twins keep him around, he could still be with the team when they have a realistic opportunity to contend for the AL Central. Span is a valuable player even if the Twins are bad again in 2013, but with so many holes in their starting rotation it is hard to see Span sticking around until Opening Day.
Josh Willingham - 33, LF, MLB -2012 was a great year for Josh Willingham. His best as a major leaguer and he was rewarded with a Silver Slugger for his 35 home runes, 110 RBIs and a .260/.366/.524 batting line. Willingham is unlikely to repeat those numbers in 2013, but even if he’s the player he was in Washington and Oakland, he’s a valuable corner outfielder and the Twins best power hitter (though a healthy Justin Morneau could certainly give him a run for his money). Willingham is likely locked into his left field role again in 2013, even if the Twins move Span and bring up a talented youngster. He doesn’t play great defense, but as Babs likes to say, it looks like he’s trying really hard out there, and effort goes a long way in earning forgiveness from the fans (something Delmon Young never got the hang of).
So there they are,
TWENTY ONE TWENTY position players. The Twins are unlikely to carry five catchers on the roster once Spring Training breaks, and of the five, Drew Butera is the most likely candidate to be removed. Of their nine infielders, I think the Twins could remove Escobar or Field without too much concern of another team claiming either player (or not), and of the two, I think Field is the most likely to be waived. It would be tough for the Twins to sneak any of their outfielders through waivers and these seven are likely to remain unchanged in the near future. Mastroianni could become expendable if either Arcia or Hicks join the 25-man roster, but that is likely to happen only if the Twins move one of the current MLB incumbents, likely Span or Willingham, should that scenario arise.